PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) — At the midpoint of Washington State's first season under coach Mike Leach, the Cougars remain a work in progress.
Washington State (2-4, 0-3 Pac-12) has problems all around, and so far has mostly failed to produce in the Air Raid offense that Leach made famous at Texas Tech.
The Cougars have twice been held without touchdowns, barely escaped FCS opponent Eastern Washington, and lost to Pac-12 doormat Colorado.
Talk of qualifying for a bowl game, prevalent after Leach was hired, is now muted.
"We've improved as a team, but we've had a lot of missed opportunities," Leach said. "If we were a more mature, mentally tougher team, we could have capitalized on them."
"Right now we are a team that if we face any adversity, we get discouraged," Leach said.
As a result, many veteran players have been dropped from the starting lineup in favor of younger players, he said.
Leach has described some of the team's seniors as having an "empty corpse" quality when it comes to leadership.
The season got off to an inauspicious start with a 30-6 loss at BYU. The Cougars posted narrow wins over Eastern Washington and UNLV, then suffered a fourth quarter collapse that allowed Colorado to overcome a nearly three touchdown deficit and win 35-34.
They lost to No. 2 Oregon 51-26, and put in a sterling defensive effort in a 19-6 loss at No. 10 Oregon State.
Linebacker Darryl Monroe said the team is hungry for its first Pac-12 win.
"Any win is what we need," he said. "It's what any team needs."
To get there, the Cougars need to play a complete game, with offense, defense and special teams all performing well, he said.
"We've just got to keep grinding throughout the season," Monroe said. "No game is a gimme."
The Cougars have six games left, starting this Saturday when they host California (2-4, 1-2).
Can they win four of those six to reach their first bowl game since 2003?